Sensors such as radar and cameras are key components of driver assist systems and are also crucial to the development of autonomous technology. Sensors enable a car to “see” the environment around it, and they’re also starting to serve secondary duty in building more detailed maps that are essential to autonomous driving.
Mobileye’s Road Experience Management system, for example, uses a car’s driver assist cameras to capture visual data of streets and traffic infrastructure such as road signs and upload it to a central, constantly updated database. But cameras have more difficulty capturing images at night and can be hampered by heavy rain or snow.
Radar sensors don’t have the same issues with darkness or inclement weather, which is why Bosch and TomTom announced today that they’ve teamed up for what the companies call “a breakthrough in the development of high-resolution maps for automated driving.” The new Radar Road Signature platform developed by the German tier-one supplier and Dutch mapmaker captures billions of reflections created by radar signals bouncing off objects such as road signs and guard rails.
As with lidar sensors, this pattern of reflections paints a digital picture of the road and its surroundings. According to Bosch, this creates map data that AVs can use “to determine their exact location in a lane down to a few centimeters.” Bosch board member Dr. Dirk Hoheisel said in a statement that the technology “will enable automated vehicles to reliably determine their location at all times.
Another advantage is that unlike data-heavy images, transferring info to the cloud for the Radar Road Signature system requires much less bandwidth. According to Bosch, Radar Road Signature transmits half the volume of data required for images, and its 77 GHz long-range radar sensors have a detection range of up to 250 meters compared to a maximum range of 150 meters for camera and video sensors.
Bosch’s current sensors used for driver assist systems such as automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control are designed to detect moving objects. The next generation of Bosch radar sensors will also detect static objects to provide the data for Radar Road Signature. Bosch expects that the first vehicles that will provide data for the platform will be on roads in Europe and the U.S. “by 2020 at the latest.”
A car’s embedded connectivity will transmit the radar sensors’ data to an OEM’s cloud-based server and then to the Bosch IoT Cloud. TomTom will in turn incorporate the Radar Road Signature data into its maps. Bosch noted that the data is also “compatible with all conventional map formats.”
“We are delighted to be able to introduce supplemental localization data in the form of the Radar Road Signature in partnership with Bosch,” said TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn. “It will make self-localization for automated vehicles considerably more robust in every respect.” And make radar sensors do double duty and even more essential to self-driving.
Originally published by Forbes.com